Wednesday, November 27, 2013

HWP: Thanksgiving

Tomorrow being Thanksgiving Day, I figured it only appropriate to pray a prayer for Thanksgiving for today's HWP. Rather than simply finding a 'Thanksgiving Prayer' I decided to take the Collect (Opening Prayer) from the Mass that will be prayed throughout our country tomorrow:
Collect for Thanksgiving Day Mass
Father all-powerful, your gifts of love are countless and your goodness infinite; as we come before you on Thanksgiving Day with gratitude for your kindness, open our hearts to have concern for every man, woman, and child, so that we may share your gifts of love service. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
On a tangential note, Pope Francis released an Apostolic Exhortation yesterday entitled 'Evangelii Gaudium' or 'The Joy of the Gospel'. It is a pretty hefty read, but contains much to call our minds to what the prayer above mentions - mindfulness and concern for every man, woman, and child. Maybe you could check it out (HERE) and read through little clips of it here and there in the coming weeks leading up to Christmas. What better way to prepare for the coming of the Lord than to be intent on finding Him in those around us? Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cling to the Throne

Readings for Sunday, November 24/ Christ the King Sunday:
2 Samuel 5:1-3
Psalm 122:1-5
Colossians 1:12-20
Luke 23:35-43
Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!
Christ conquers! Christ reigns! Christ commands!

This ancient hymn of the Church recalls the kingship of Christ Jesus. Though the hymn is from centuries back, it was only in 1929 that Pope Pius XI instituted this universal solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. He did so in response to the upheaval taking place in governments around the world in the early twentieth century. Nearly world-wide at that time there were examples of national leaders coming to power and making their will and desires the law of the land. They did what they wanted, often desiring a sort of earthly paradise, and because it was not desired by the people they governed, it was most often done with fear and force. The feast of Christ the king shows forth the truth that despite whatever power rulers have in this life, there is but one true ruler over all creation and He comes to rule in a way unlike any the world had seen either before or since. Rather than seeking His own will He came among us to accomplish the Father’s will. Instead of the earthly paradise, He pointed the eyes of all toward the paradise that awaits the righteous. And the power He exercised was seen not in fear and force but love and service. This otherworldly king comes and proclaims His riches not in fine clothing and palaces. Paradoxically, He proclaims His kingship from the most absurd throne the world has ever known: the cross. The sign over His head, the Gospel tells us, said simply ‘The King of the Jews.’ Even now on nearly every crucifix I have seen the proclamation still remains in that little sign: I.N.R.I., Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.
The Gospel story recounts to us the reaction of the crowds who gazed upon this King on His throne. The rulers there mocked Him saying, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” The soldiers spoke similarly: “If you are king of the Jews, save yourself.” And that foolish criminal on the cross beside Him even mocked Him as he questions Him, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.”
Each of these people had their expectations of the King and what He should do. They all thought in their heads, ‘if He is indeed a King He clearly doesn’t know how to rule very well!’ And sometimes we can think the same. ‘Save yourself and us!’ they cry. But with those words they say so much else in their hearts: ‘Lord, take away the pain of this life! Take away the illness and disease! Take away sorrow and death! Take away suffering, injustices, and the difficulty of fighting sin! Make things better! Make us happy now!’
To those cries Jesus did what He knew He must: He remained fixed to the cross with the nails and by love for the Father’s will and for the people He was redeeming. With that action Jesus shows us that we are not in control. God is. We don’t make the rules. God does. We cannot see the big picture. God can.

If we wish to be true followers of Christ, true Christians, the place we must find ourselves always is at the foot of the cross. Life is hard. We do experience suffering and pain. We do experience death and loneliness. We do experience illness, disease, injustice and the pain of sin. That is why we call this life the ‘vale of tears’. We all want to be perfectly happy and content in this life, but that is exactly why Jesus doesn’t give us everything we want in this life: because this life is not heaven. It’s not meant to be perfect. BUT, there is a place that awaits the faithful that is perfect, that is free from all pain and sorrow and discord. And to get there we need only remain with our King. In the Gospel passage we heard so many mockeries spoken but remember that silently there at the foot of the cross were the Blessed Mother, the Beloved Disciple John, and others quietly present with the Lord. What they were seeing and experiencing was painful beyond understanding, and yet they gazed upon Him trying to make sense of the mystery. That is our place: alongside the Blessed Mother, John and the others clinging to the cross of Christ knowing that just as Jesus died and was raised up to glory three days later, we too, if we stay with Jesus through the sufferings we endure in this life, will partake in the heavenly banquet. If we are faithful to Him in this life, He will be faithful to us in the next. So let us draw near to our King. By His grace and example let us take courage that whatever happens in this life, we have a King who is greater than anything we must face. He has won for us the victory. So we pray – maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus! Come, King of the Universe! Come, live, reign in our hearts.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

HWP: Dedication of the Human Race!

This coming weekend is the Feast of Christ the King! With my homily a couple of weeks back on indulgences I've become much more attentive to the need and availability of them in my own life. Those who make a public Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ the King this Sunday (along with the usual conditions of Communion, confession, etc.) are granted a plenary indulgence! And if you pray this prayer on days other than the Feast of Christ the King, a partial indulgence is still gained. So... let the grace pour forth and the indulgences wipe away our punishments!
Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ the King
Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before you. We are yours, and yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with you, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your Most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known you; many, too, despising your precepts, have rejected you. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to your Sacred Heart. Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you; grant that they may quickly return to their Father's house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd. Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give tranquility of order to all nations; make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Running to the Bridegroom
Bride and Groom before the Divine Bridegroom
Readings for Sunday, November 17/ 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Malachi 3:19-20
Psalm 98:5-9
2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
Luke 21:5-9

When we come face to face with our mortality, we don’t concern ourselves with unimportant things but rather with the most important things. In the many visits I’ve had with people drawing near to death, not once have I been heard anyone talk about the price of gas or whether they dusted the house recently. They express their love for others, their sorrow for sins in this life, seek and give forgiveness, and give advice to others which has served them well in their own life. That is what is taking place in the Scriptures today – as we near the end of this liturgical year the Church takes this opportunity to speak to those most important things.

It begins with the prophet Malachi, who tells us that the day is coming when the evildoers will be cut down and burned, and the righteous will rise up and experience the healing rays of the Sun of Justice. He speaks of the end of the world, but even more deeply he speaks of what lies beyond that. After death, for each and every one of us, there are only two ultimate options: heaven or hell. There is no third option; it is one or the other. There is a temptation quite often to try to use hell as a way to scare people into heaven. While that certainly has a time and place, and we all must reflect regularly on the horrible reality that hell is, trying to get to heaven simply because we fear hell is not what God desires most. What he wants is that we fly to heaven not out of fear but, instead, out of love for Him. I had a wedding yesterday in New Orleans and it was such a beautiful ceremony. I was with the groom and the groomsmen beforehand in the sacristy and they were giving him the necessary pre-game razzing: “Only ten minutes! If you’re gonna leave now is the time, buddy!” Of course he didn’t leave (and thankfully I haven’t had one leave yet!), but instead went out to meet his bride. It wasn’t because he feared what would happen if he didn’t – that the father of the bride might have his head on a platter after spending the money to get it all together – it was because he loved his bride. So great was his love for her that he had recourse to his handkerchief to wipe away his tears two or three times before she even got up to the sanctuary. It was the joy of his heart to marry her and it should be the same with us as we contemplate heavenly life. God is the Divine Bridegroom who awaits the Church, His bride, in each of her members. As each of us walk down the aisle to Him, it should take everything within us not to break loose of our father’s hand and run to our Bridegroom. We should LONG for heaven even more than the bride and groom longed to marry one another yesterday.

And yet, we have a choice. God always gives us the choice because He loves us. Our responsorial psalm tells us that “God comes to rule the earth with justice” and it is that justice that makes heaven and hell necessary. It is often said today that God is so loving that He couldn’t send us to hell. That’s absolutely true. If anyone goes to hell it is by their own choosing. It would be unjust of God to have someone reject Him completely in this life and then force him to be in His presence for all eternity. And it would also be unjust to have people who suffer greatly to live the Christian life sit side by side to those who never once showed an ounce of compassion, remorse for sin, or desire to serve the Lord. God’s justice demands that both realities exist because it is by our choosing that we either join ourselves to God or separate ourselves from Him.

This is where St. Paul challenges us in the letter to the Thessalonians. He says bluntly “If anyone would not work, neither should that one eat.” There can be a sense in which we Catholics give ourselves a free pass from living the faith like we are called to. It comes in many forms: ‘I’m too busy’, ‘They can expect that much from me’, ‘I’ve done my share already’, etc. There are far too many leeches in our faith today; people who give nothing to build up the Church but simply come to take take take. We must be people who give of ourselves, who put our faith into action. We must be people of daily prayer, who come to Mass weekly, celebrate Confession regularly, help the poor, contribute in some way to the Church because the Church is the instrument of spreading the Good News of Salvation and we are blessed enough to have received the promise of salvation through her ourselves. We must do all of these things, again, not out of fear of hell but out of love for God.

The thing, though, is that it can be difficult to keep up the pace of giving of our self completely to others and to God. But we must. Recall the last line of the Gospel we just heard: “Your perseverance will secure your lives.” It’s not about being perfect; it’s about being willing to try to become so. In the sacristy I have a little book that is a 33-day preparation for consecration to Mary. On the top of that book there are nine little pen marks, noting that I’ve done that 33-day preparation each of the last nine years. And you know what – when I opened it again this year I began to read through the prayers once more and I feel like I haven’t even started to become what they challenge me to be. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to put it on the shelf and forget about it. God knows that we are sinners, that we will always fall short of perfection. But that doesn’t change the fact that He invites us to strive for it. He just wants us to try. That’s all.

The great Saint of the Church Jean Marie Vianney once posed this question to his congregation: “Where are the Christians today who would be read, I do not say to give up their lives for God, but even to put up with the least unpleasantness or inconvenience rather than disobey Him?”

Where are those Christians? May God find many indeed here among us, men and women willing to try, willing to put one foot in front of the other and walk toward our Divine Bridegroom that awaits us. God grant us this grace today to grow even in the smallest of ways in our love for Him here and now, that He might keep us in His love for all eternity.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

HWP: The Sign of the Cross

These HWP were a way for me to be mindful of the many powerful prayers that the Church has in her treasury for us to make use of, drawing closer not only to the Lord but also to the saints whose prayers we pray and seek. A little article I found today (HERE and copied below) reminded me that sometimes the simplest prayers are the most powerful. So the HWP for today is something we (hopefully) do every day at various times: The Sign of the Cross!
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Check out the 21 things we do when we pray those simple words:
1. Pray. We begin and end our prayers with the Sign of the Cross, perhaps not realizing that the sign is itself a prayer. If prayer, at its core, is “an uprising of the mind to God,” as St. John Damascene put it, then the Sign of the Cross assuredly qualifies. “No empty gesture, the sign of the cross is a potent prayer that engages the Holy Spirit as the divine advocate and agent of our successful Christian living,” writes Bert Ghezzi.
2. Open ourselves to grace. As a sacramental, the Sign of the Cross prepares us for receiving God’s blessing and disposes us to cooperate with His grace, according to Ghezzi.
3. Sanctify the day. As an act repeated throughout the key moments of each day, the Sign of the Cross sanctifies our day. “At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign,” wrote Tertullian.
4. Commit the whole self to Christ. In moving our hands from our foreheads to our hearts and then both shoulders, we are asking God’s blessing for our mind, our passions and desires, our very bodies. In other words, the Sign of the Cross commits us, body and soul, mind and heart, to Christ. (I’m paraphrasing this Russian Orthodox writer.) “Let it take in your whole being—body, soul, mind, will, thoughts, feelings, your doing and not-doing—and by signing it with the cross strengthen and consecrate the whole in the strength of Christ, in the name of the triune God,” said twentieth century theologian Romano Guardini.
5. Recall the Incarnation. Our movement is downward, from our foreheads to our chest “because Christ descended from the heavens to the earth,” Pope Innocent III wrote in his instructions on making the Sign of the Cross. Holding two fingers together—either the thumb with the ring finger or with index finger—also represents the two natures of Christ.
6. Remember the Passion of Our Lord. Fundamentally, in tracing out the outlines of a cross on ourselves, we are remembering Christ’s crucifixion. This remembrance is deepened if we keep our right hand open, using all five fingers to make the sign—corresponding to the Five Wounds of Christ.
7. Affirm the Trinity. In invoking the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we are affirming our belief in a triune God. This is also reinforced by using three fingers to make the sign, according to Pope Innocent III.
8. Focus our prayer on God. One of the temptations in prayer is to address it to God as we conceive of Him—the man upstairs, our buddy, a sort of cosmic genie, etc. When this happens, our prayer becomes more about us than an encounter with the living God. The Sign of the Cross immediately focuses us on the true God, according to Ghezzi: “When we invoke the Trinity, we fix our attention on the God who made us, not on the God we have made. We fling our images aside and address our prayers to God as he has revealed himself to be: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
9. Affirm the procession of Son and Spirit. In first lifting our hand to our forehead we recall that the Father is the first person the Trinity. In lowering our hand we “express that the Son proceeds from the Father.” And, in ending with the Holy Spirit, we signify that the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son, according to Francis de Sales.
10. Confess our faith. In affirming our belief in the Incarnation, the crucifixion, and the Trinity, we are making a sort of mini-confession of faith in words and gestures, proclaiming the core truths of the creed.
11. Invoke the power of God’s name. In Scripture, God’s name carries power. In Philippians 2:10, St. Paul tells us that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” And, in John 14:13-14, Jesus Himself said, “And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”
12. Crucify ourselves with Christ. Whoever wishes to follow Christ “must deny himself” and “take up his cross” as Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 16:24. “I have been crucified with Christ,” St. Paul writes in Galatians 2:19. “Proclaiming the sign of the cross proclaims our yes to this condition of discipleship,” Ghezzi writes.
13. Ask for support in our suffering. In crossing our shoulders we ask God “to support us—to shoulder us—in our suffering,” Ghezzi writes.
14. Reaffirm our baptism. In using the same words with which we were baptized, the Sign of the Cross is a “summing up and re-acceptance of our baptism,” according to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
15. Reverse the curse. The Sign of the Cross recalls the forgiveness of sins and the reversal of the Fall by passing “from the left side of the curse to the right of blessing,” according to de Sales. The movement from left to right also signifies our future passage from present misery to future glory just as Christ “crossed over from death to life and from Hades to Paradise,” Pope Innocent II wrote.
16. Remake ourselves in Christ’s image. In Colossians 3, St. Paul uses the image of clothing to describe how our sinful natures are transformed in Christ. We are to take off the old self and put on the self “which is being renewed … in the image of its creator,” Paul tells us. The Church Fathers saw a connection between this verse and the stripping of Christ on the cross, “teaching that stripping off our old nature in baptism and putting on a new one was a participation in Christ’s stripping at his crucifixion,” Ghezzi writes. He concludes that we can view the Sign of the Cross as “our way of participating in Christ’s stripping at the Crucifixion and his being clothed in glory at his resurrection.” Thus, in making the Sign of the Cross, we are radically identifying ourselves with the entirety of the crucifixion event—not just those parts of it we can accept or that our palatable to our sensibilities.
17. Mark ourselves for Christ. In ancient Greek, the word for sign was sphragis, which was also a mark of ownership, according to Ghezzi. “For example, a shepherd marked his sheep as his property with a brand that he called a sphragis,” Ghezzi writes. In making the Sign of the Cross, we mark ourselves as belong to Christ, our true shepherd.
18. Soldier on for Christ. The sphragis was also the term for a general’s name that would be tattooed on his soldiers, according to Ghezzi. This too is an apt metaphor for the Christian life: while we can be compared to sheep in the sense of following Christ as our shepherd we are not called to be sheepish. We instead are called to be soldiers of Christ. As St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6, “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. … take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
19. Ward off the devil. The Sign of the Cross is one of the very weapons we use in that battle with the devil. As one medieval preacher named Aelfric declared, “A man may wave about wonderfully with his hands without creating any blessing unless he make the sign of the cross. But, if he do, the fiend will soon be frightened on account of the victorious token.” In another statement, attributed to St. John Chrysostom, demons are said to “fly away” at the Sign of the Cross “dreading it as a staff that they are beaten with.” (Source: Catholic Encyclopedia.)
20. Seal ourselves in the Spirit. In the New Testament, the word sphragis, mentioned above, is also sometimes translated as seal, as in 2 Corinthians 1:22, where St. Paul writes that, “the one who gives us security with you in Christ and who anointed us is God; he has also put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.” In making the Sign of the Cross, we are once again sealing ourselves in the Spirit, invoking His powerful intervention in our lives.
21. Witness to others. As a gesture often made in public, the Sign of the Cross is a simple way to witness our faith to others. “Let us not then be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and on everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we rise up; when we are in the way, and when we are still,” wrote St. Cyril of Jerusalem.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Real Hope

Readings for Sunday, November 10/ Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time:
2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14
Psalm 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15
2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5
Luke 20:27-38

We love to use the word ‘hope’ these days. We use it to encourage change in politics, we use it to spur us on to victory in athletics, we use it in education and the workplace to push us toward greatness, we use it in our daily lives as we look forward to a time of peace or the attainment of some perceived good. As a priest whose life is almost entirely consumed by things of the faith, much of my hope is focused not on athletics and political things but on the things of faith in our community, our diocese and around the world. While there is much to be frustrated by in our days, there is even more to build within us the gift of hope.

Last week we concluded 40 Days for Life, a 40-day prayer vigil at the abortion clinic in Baton Rouge. The prayers and presence of people from our parish and other parishes in the Diocese of Baton Rouge helped 19 women choose life for their child instead of abortion during those 40 days. Hope.

Just a few weeks ago we mourned the death of Fr. Louis Oubre, a priest of our diocese who served across the river for some years and died in his mid-fifties. We continue to be aware of the decreasing number of priests in active ministry in our diocese. But this year 9 young men entered the seminary for our diocese, bringing the total number of seminarians to 19, nearly equal to the most we’ve ever had as a diocese – and three more already applying to enter next year to join their ranks. And we can add to that a dozen young Religious Brothers and Sisters from our diocese, ministering in other communities. Hope.

The world continually works to lead our youth away from God and the faith through so many avenues. And yet there are many youth who are devout Catholics ready to show the world the joy of the faith. Nine buses of high school students from our diocese will drive up to Washington DC in January for the annual March for Life. Nearly 1000 gathered two weeks back for our Diocesan World Youth Day. Our Catholic Schools continues from Pre-K up through High School continue to see incredible things as teachers and students alike continue to catch fire with our faith. Hope.

Those are just a few examples of many more good things going on in our diocese. I say all this to encourage you to contribute to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, which will be used by the Bishop for various projects in our diocese to continue to build up our local Church in the faith and in hope. We can look to recent years to see some of the good that has come from your generosity in this appeal: over 45,000 individuals helped through Catholic Charities, $75,000 given for tuition assistance programs in Catholic Schools, $52,000 given to help with evangelization through our local Catholic TV programming, $100,000 given for emergency generators at parishes. I’ll stop there to keep from being too long-winded, but you get the idea. All of the things mentioned above are things that we have benefitted from directly here in our cluster. If you have received an envelope already, we have them available at the rear of the Church and invite you to continue in your support not only for our local community but also our wider diocesan community.

This homily isn’t about money though. It’s about hope. The examples listed above were things that encourage us to be hopeful about our future as a diocese. Those things are all important for us to urge us on in our faith here on earth, but we also have to remember that our true hope is not in earthly things at all. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that hope is “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (1817). True hope is focused on one thing and one thing only: heavenly life.

The Resurrection is one of those things that can be difficult to understand because it raises so many questions we can’t answer: What does it mean to have a resurrected body? How will it happen? Will I look the same? Will we have our personal attributes still? How can we have bodies in heaven, which is a spiritual reality? To those questions we could add another 1000, but the simple fact is that we cannot know the answers because we have not experienced the reality. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

In our first reading we hear this intense story of seven brothers who are killed for not forsaking Jewish laws prohibiting the eating of pork. As they undergo their torture and martyrdom, they each begin to speak of the heavenly life that awaits the righteous. Keep in mind this is over 125 years before Jesus was even born. The idea of an afterlife and even a bodily existence there wasn’t something Jesus made up but was actually a belief of many pious Jews, Jesus of course included in that group. That’s why we hear these bold proclamations from the third son saying of his tongue and hands, “It was from Heaven that I received these; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from Him I hope to receive them again” and from the fourth son, who does likewise, saying, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him.” The Resurrection is not just a nice thought. It is a reality that all of us can and should look forward to.

Why should we look forward to it? The answer is held in our Gospel passage where we encounter
another group of seven brothers, each taking the same woman as his wife. There was actually a law at the time that if a man died leaving his wife childless, his brother should marry the woman and ensure the brother’s lineage was upheld with children. It’s strange, but that was the case. That’s how we arrive at this strange question posed to Jesus about which of the seven men would be her husband in heaven. Jesus recognizes that the questioners have an idea of heaven that doesn't match with the truth and seeks to change that by jolting them a bit with his answer: there is a resurrection of the body, but there is no giving and taking in marriage in heaven! We can be a bit upset when we hear this because it seems like Jesus has a negative view of marriage, as if when we get to heaven you think ‘Well thank God that marriage isn’t here!’ That’s not it at all. Jesus held marriage in high esteem and even chose that context for His first miracle. Jesus isn’t saying marriage is bad but rather uses earthly marriage to emphasize the goodness the Resurrection of the Body and eternal life that are to come. After all, when we think of intimacy, passion and love, what do we think of most clearly – married life. It is in married life that we see a man and woman joined together in one flesh to share themselves completely with one another, to journey with one another for the rest of their lives, sharing their greatest joys, sorrows, fear, and dreams. That is intimacy! And as beautiful as that is and as life-giving as that is for that couple, Heavenly life will make that seem like nothing. That’s what Jesus means when He says that people are not married or given in marriage, not that marriage is bad but that heavenly life is going to be where we encounter life, love, and passion in a way that we cannot even begin to understand here on earth.

That is the gift that awaits us.That is the salvation that God holds out to us and longs for us to receive. That is what our hope points us toward. As we receive Holy Communion today, let us receive the fullness of grace we need to be faithful to our God here in this life, that we might be able to one day behold forever the One who is always faithful to us.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

HWP: Requiem Aeternam

As I noted last week, we can gain plenary indulgences for the souls in Purgatory during this first week of November by completing the necessary requirements. Also, we can gain partial indulgences for the faithful departed year round for the faithful departed by devoutly visiting a cemetery and at least mentally praying for the dead. It is also a praiseworthy practice, though a non-indulgenced one, to pray for them at various times throughout the day, such as during the rosary, in daily prayers, and included in the thanksgiving prayer after meals. There are many prayers that could be employed, but this one from the Funeral Ritual is always appropriate: 

Requiem Aeternam

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. 
May they rest in peace. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Papal Intentions for November 2013

I have been having trouble with the sidebar letting me update the papal intentions and have not yet
made a whole page dedicated to the Holy Father, which hopefully will be coming soon, so I'll just post the intentions here like I did in the past.

Papal Intentions for November 2013

General Intention: That priests who experience difficulties may find comfort in their suffering, support in their doubts, and confirmation in their fidelity.

Mission Intention: That as fruit of the continental mission, Latin American Churches may send missionaries to other Churches.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Little Indulgence...

Readings for Sunday, November 3/ 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Wisdom 11:22-12:2
Psalm 145:1-2, 8-11, 13-14
2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2
Luke 19:1-10

Today we hear the story of Zacchaeus, the wee little man, a wee little was he. He climbed up in a sycamore for the Lord he wanted to see. I don’t know if y’all had that children’s song in the Catholic Church but as a Methodist it’s how I learned about this passage, which thankfully is much deeper than just a simple children’s song. What strikes me about this passage is that the Lord reaches out to Zacchaeus first. Zacchaeus just climbs the tree because he wants to see this Jesus passing by, not like others who are compelled to touch Him or His cloak. And Jesus it is who calls out first and says He wants to go to Zacchaeus’ house. In that the Lord reveals His love for Zacchaeus. It is only then that Zacchaeus promises to give half of his belongings to the poor and to pay back fourfold what he had attained wrongly. After experiencing God’s love and even forgiveness, we see him giving something to make up for what he had done in the past.

When we go to Confession, we receive the forgiveness of our sins but the reality is that while our sins are forgiven there is still due to us some punishment due to us because of our sins. The wages of sin, St. Paul tells us, is death, and so every sin brings upon us some justly deserved punishment. But it’s not really a punishment like we usually think of it. Sin is often thought in our minds to be just the breaking of a rule, but we miss the greater part of the reality of sin if we limit it to rule-breaking. It is actually a wound in the relationship we have with our self, our neighbors, and, most importantly, our God. The punishment is found in the fact that it takes something on our part to build that relationship back up; we must make up for what we have hurt, just like Zacchaeus.

While there are many ways that God’s grace can come to us to help alleviate some of these punishments, there are some very specific ones that the Church holds out to us in what is traditionally known as indulgences. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that an indulgence is “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sin whose guilt has already been forgiven.” Again, it’s doing something to alleviate the punishments due after we’ve already been forgiven.

Indulgences have often gotten a bad reputation because there were times in centuries past where if you bought a brick for the parish church you got an indulgence, if you bought a whole bunch of bricks you got a whole bunch of indulgences and there were some who thought they could do whatever they wanted in this life and just build a church and more or less buy salvation. That’s not the case. Also, in the earlier part of the century we had a plethora of holy cards with a little note on the back of ‘100 days indulgence’, ‘300 days indulgence’, 500 days indulgence’ – you always wanted the 500 days indulgence ones! – and would often count the days we had gained up. Things have been simplified since then and days are not attached, but the underlying truth is that we still should strive to gain these graces because we are all sinners and in need of the freedom from punishments deserved.

While many of you may not be familiar with the term indulgence or with the practice of trying to gain them, they are indeed a very important part of the life of the Church and you’re likely doing some things already that are indulgenced without realizing it. Things such as serving the poor, praying the rosary, spending time in Eucharistic Adoration, praying approved prayers to the saints, teaching catechism and other such things. All of these are opportunities for us to mend that relationship with God. With these particular prayers and actions, and the many others that are approved by the Church, we have to recognize that it’s not just doing the action that wins us freedom from punishment like it’s some sort of magic trick. Rather, the Church says that is we have the right disposition of heart and we intentionally do these things we will be able to receive the grace of remission of punishment. The main things are to be aware of the opportunity to gain the graces and to have the right dispositions to do so.

Most of the things mentioned above are ‘partial indulgences’ which means that the punishment is only partially removed. These types of indulgences are available as often as we do them and can be gained many times throughout the day. There is also a plenary indulgence – or a complete remission of the punishment – that can be gained once a day each day. Those require specific actions from us including a reciting the Creed, praying for the Holy Father’s intentions (an Our Father and Hail Mary), going to Communion that day, making a good confession within 20 days before or after, and being free from all attachment to sin in our hearts. Those conditions plus other specific things gain a great many graces for us, but also for others.

Just as we can pray for one another here on Earth, we can also pray for those who have preceded us in death and the saints can pray for us too. I mention this because November 1-8 are special days of indulgences in the Church. We can gain a plenary indulgence for ourselves on November 1 and on November 2-8 if we visit a cemetery and pray for the faithful departed, as well as the other prayers above, we can gain a plenary indulgence for them! It’s a great gift of charity to take the time to do such an action because it could well be the thing that permits that soul to enter into eternal glory with God in Heaven. And you better believe that if you’ve helped them in any way get to Heaven they will be eternally grateful (literally) and will pray for us as we journey in this life and through any purgatory time we might have ourselves. Not that it should be done for selfish reasons, but that’s not a bad bonus there!

To conclude, I just encourage all of you to learn about indulgences, continue to open yourselves to God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and seek out these blessed opportunities to receive indulgences for ourselves and others, that we all might rejoice together in the goodness of our God and the glory of what is to come.